It's not fun being Speaker John Boehner this Christmas.
I'll try to contain my laughter and deep, warm, fuzzy freudenschade.
And it started with an extension of the payroll tax cut. Earlier this year, the Democrats suggested a one-year extension, and the Republicans balked. So the Dems in the Senate suggested a two-month stopgap, and the Republicans in the Senate (after due amounts of hemming and hawing) decided it was a pretty good idea. The Senate passed it easily, with wide bipartisan support, and sent it on to the House.
And things fell apart.
I will now digress, to give you a little insight into the fundamental differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate. When the Constitution was being drawn up, Alexander Hamilton suggested that the Senate be what the House of Lords was in Britain - the Upper House, populated by people who were above the baser instincts of those drawn and elevated from the great masses of the people.
(This, by the way, is why the original version of the Constitution - now modified by the 17th Amendment - required Senators to be elected by state legislatures, not by popular vote.)
The House of Representatives, on the other hand, was to be and still is elected by popular vote. Its members tend to be passionate and somewhat more vociferous than their Senate counterparts. Some might even say 'bumptious,' requiring the Speaker to be strong leader capable of directing not only his own caucus but by negotiating in good faith with the opposition.
Okay, digression over.
The payroll tax stopgap hits the House and got hit by a dung-bomb. You see, the extreme-right-so-extreme-that-if-you-squint-they-look-anarchist wing of the GOP said no. These are the same people who'd rather see Americans lapse into poverty by the millions rather than let Obama or the Democrats be perceived as winning. Buoyed, then, by the extremists in his caucus, Boehner said no.
And the backlash began. The Right Wing Propaganda Mouthpieces (like the Wall Street Journal
) stood aghast at the very idea of Republicans actually refusing a tax cut. The Senate GOP perked up, and the wrinkled old woman Minority Leader (Mitch McConnell) refused to back Boehner's bright idea of setting up a conference. Even Karl Rove weighed in, saying that the Republicans had "lost the optics."
Boehner capitulated yesterday, as his own House caucus started to fracture.
Boehner plans on putting the bill up on a unanimous consent motion, which doesn't require calling the full House back into session. However, it means that only one Republican has to object to scotch things and make the Speaker look like many are perceiving him to be - a weak leader.
The Speaker of the House cannot be a weak leader, and it's been vividly illustrated that Boehner can't even command his own caucus, much less the more fractious and bumptious Tea Party members. He's lost respect, and you can't get respect back easily once you've lost it.
If one, just one
, GOP House member says no to the motion approving the bill, payroll taxes will go up and the blame will be laid completely at the feet of the Republican House caucus and its leader, Speaker John Boehner. People will get extremely pissed at seeing their taxes go up while the GOP continues to insist on lowering taxes on the insanely rich.
One analyst suggested a fight developing, behind the scenes right now, between partisans within the House GOP.
Watch closely, and have some popcorn or Raisinets handy.
We may have Speaker Eric Cantor by Groundhog Day.